Emmy awards can’t get out of rut, hard for newcomers

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    By Briana Hallstrom

    For movies it”s an Oscar. For music it”s a Grammy. And for television it”s an Emmy, whose nominations for the 56th annual telecast were announced last Thursday, July 15.

    Over the years, however, the honor and prestige of the Emmy Awards have been somewhat tainted. TV critics across the nation have complained about the Awards” results, and specifically about its unoriginality in the nominations.

    “Once a comedy or drama breaks through to Emmy-worthy status,” said Ray Richmond, a columnist on CNN”s Web site. “It takes almost an act of God for it to fall off the nominees list, seeming to stand as a lifetime appointment.”

    This “Emmy-worthy” status has hit shows like “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing,” in that they have been nominated in all of the top categories for almost every year of their series” run. But the unoriginality does not only apply to the nominations. “The West Wing” has won the best drama series category for the last four consecutive years, despite criticism from critics that the show has gone stale.

    “It”s the nature of television that certain shows and actors will be good year after year,” said Rick Porter, from Zap2it.com. “There”s a flip side to that, though. Shows can also decline in quality- even ardent fans of “The West Wing” or “24” would likely concede that neither was as good in 2003-04 as it has been in the past. Yet there they are, in the running for outstanding drama.”

    For the most part, this sentiment proved true when this year”s nominations were announced.

    “The Sopranos” received 20 nominations, “Sex and the City” garnered 11 and “The West Wing” landed 12, including the best drama series category they will attempt to sweep for the fifth consecutive year.

    The shows and ensembles are not the only things being nominated repeatedly. Many of the same actors are honored year after year, leaving little room for newcomers to break through the mold.

    This year, however, The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which is the company behind the Emmys, has tried to appease complaints of the unoriginality.

    In the past, each Academy member submitted five names for each category. But this year, they were allowed to submit 10 names, in hopes that more variety would show up in the results. As per every year, the top-vote getters receive the five nominations.

    The Academy”s strategy this year may have not changed much in the roster, but a few newcomer surprises managed to slip through.

    Amber Tamblyn, of the freshman series, “Joan of Arcadia,” a show about a young girl who talks to God, was nominated for best actress in a drama series, along with her show for best drama.

    “Arrested Development,” a critically lauded comedy with lackluster ratings, managed to get a nod for best comedy series. In its first year on the air, it beat out perennial favorites, “Friends” and “Frasier,” in both shows” final seasons.

    Another surprise came in a posthumous award for the late John Ritter. He was nominated as best actor for his role on “8 Simple Rules” even though he appeared on only three shows last season before his untimely death.

    Another bittersweet award came to actress Bonnie Hunt, who was nominated for best actress in a comedy. Her show, “Life With Bonnie,” which she wrote, directed and starred in, was cancelled earlier this year.

    “I”m grateful I had the opportunity to do the show in the first place,” the actress told Reuters. “(The Emmy nomination) is nice for my family because it”ll make them feel good. My mom still can”t understand how the show can be canceled.”

    Sept. 1 is the postmark deadline for Academy members to mail in their votes. Until then, those members will repeatedly watch tapes of the nominees and make their final picks.

    The 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards telecast will take place Sept. 19 on ABC.

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